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ITU approves new worldwide smart grid standards

Narrowband powerline communications standards kick-start market

Geneva, 21 December 2011 – New ITU standards for smart grid have achieved final approval and are now available for download. Recommendations ITU-T G.9955 and G.9956 define three international next generation narrowband powerline communications (NB-PLC) standards. The approved family of standards will enable cost-effective smart grid applications such as distribution automation, diagnostic and fault location, smart metering, demand response, energy management, smart appliances, grid-to-home communications and advanced recharging systems for electric vehicles.

The next-generation NB-PLC transceivers defined in the ITU standards family are optimized for the various topologies and characteristics of power grids around the world. Standardized transceivers will provide a 'smart' link between electricity and communications networks through their support of the use of power lines as a communications medium. PLC exploits electricity networks' existing wired infrastructure, greatly reducing the cost of deploying a dedicated communications channel.

Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General, ITU: "The approved ITU NB-PLC family of international standards will be a fundamental building block for realizing a robust smart grid anywhere in the world, and will allow utilities to start immediate deployment of NB-PLC on a worldwide basis.”

ITU-T Recommendations G.9955 and G.9956 contain the physical layer (PHY) and the data link layer (DLL) specifications, respectively, for NB-PLC transceivers based on OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing). The specifications define technologies that support indoor and outdoor communications over direct current and alternating current power lines (including low and medium voltage lines), through transformer communications, for both urban and long distance rural communications and at frequencies below 500 kHz. The approved ITU NB-PLC family of standards includes three separate and self-contained specifications:

  1. G.hnem: a new NB-PLC technology developed by ITU-T in cooperation with members of the G3-PLC and PRIME Alliances;
  2. G3-PLC: an established and field-proven NB-PLC technology contributed by members of the G3-PLC Alliance;
  3. PRIME: an established and field-proven NB-PLC technology contributed by members of the PRIME Alliance

The standards are an ideal platform for smart grid applications because of their use of power lines as a communications medium which is under the direct and complete control of power utilities. In addition, because the family supports popular protocols like Ethernet, IPv4 and IPv6, smart grid networks can easily be integrated with IP-based networks. The standards incorporate electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and mitigation techniques defined in collaboration with ITU’s Radiocommunication sector (ITU-R) that ensure a high degree of protection of radio services from PLC emissions.

Richard Schomberg, IEC Smart Grid Strategic Group Chairman: “This world-first standard publication on Narrowband OFDM PLC technology can bridge the large gap of sub-dollar chips to unlock a gigantic smart grid market of advanced machine-to-machine communication with enhanced speed but ultra-high resiliency. It is a complementary and essential piece of the large puzzle of standards that IEC is assembling with ITU and ISO.”

For more information, please contact:

Toby Johnson,
Senior Communications Officer,
tel +41 22 730 5877
mobile ++41 79 249 4868
email toby.johnson@itu.int
Sarah Parkes
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information,
tel +41 22 730 6039
mobile +41 79 599 1439
email sarah.parkes@itu.int

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